Director Danny Boyle Discusses “Slumdog”

In the drama Slumdog Millionaire, a poverty stricken teenager takes India by storm when he becomes the only contestant en route to win 10 million rupees from the hit show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Little does the world know that the money is meaningless, and he’s there for a much greater purpose—and that purpose is love. The incredibly talented Danny Boyle, who directed the film, sat down with NBCPhiladelphia to chat about the beauty of India, Oscar buzz, and… a musical version of Trainspotting?!

NBC: Slumdog Millionaire chronicles life in the slums for a kid. What’s the difference between slums in India and those in the states?

Danny Boyle: There are staggering contrasts between them. When we use that word, we definitely get a picture in our mind. In India, so many people live in slums. Half the population of the city lives in the slums, somewhere around 8 to 10 million people. The nature of Indian society, especially there, is that everything is very next door to everything else, there’s no geographical separation. They build these brand new buildings, and down at the bottom there’s just a scurve of slums. What we would do in the states is put lawns there or a parking lot or whatever.

NBC: The movie is based on an Indian book called Q and A. However, several things were invented for the film version. What are the big changes you guys made transitioning the book to the screen?

DB: The spine of the book is the game show, and there are 12 to14 short stories that bungee off the game show. The guy who wrote the script, he made the spine of the movie the love story, so it becomes not about Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, its actually a film about a love story, which involves hijacking this game show everyone’s familiar with in order to try and make the love story work.

NBC: Speaking of the love story, I was very taken aback by just how romantic a film Slumdog Millionaire was. I can see your incredible passion in the final result. Are you a romantic person at heart?

DS: Not really. I didn’t think I was. I don’t think of myself as very romantic, but I will say when I saw the Taj Mahal, I was incredibly taken back in that way. I would definitely check it out if you are ever in India.

NBC: You’ve done a lot of different films in different genres from fantasy (Millions) to horror (28 Days Later), to hard drama (Trainspotting). Why this movie now, what about it appealed to you?

DB: Initially, it must have been the portrayal of the city. I love the energy of cities; I am a very city person. It just felt electric. Also, you got a kid with incredible odds against him who was so determined, with that inner strength. He was still achieving what he wants to achieve, and we all love that kind of story.

NBC: The love interest in the movie was a very important casting choice. Freida Pinto was amazing, but what led you to choose her in the role?

DB: I remember seeing her, and she was very beautiful, but there was something more than that. She is more than that kind of beauty, and she was always the one he was going to come back to, but as with the structure of the story, she keeps being taken away from you, and from him. She’s got to be somebody that you remember, and for who the effort was worthwhile of going through his story.

NBC: critics everywhere have embraced this movie. The word “Oscar” has been thrown around—how do you react to that?

DB: Well, I really enjoyed making this; they had to drag me away at the end. The story is that kind with a dream story, a kid form nowhere who can get anything, and that has a big connection with America and universally, so I can understand the appeal. If we ever do get into the awards hall, I think we’ll be in the back waving, but it will be very nice to be there.

NBC: So, when you were making Slumdog Millionaire, were you thinking, this movie is good, I’m going to get an award for this!

DB: Everyone thinks about that all the time, anyone who tells you they don’t is lying. I think about that when I clean my car, like “I’m going to get an Oscar for this. I’m such a genius.” (laughs). 

NBC: You mentioned interest in doing a musical next. Any idea of what topic? How about a musical version of Trainspotting?

DB: Why not! Get Jack White to do the music, or someone like Noel Gallagher from Oasis. It would have be original material with original songs, not based on a stage now, and nothing that we are familiar with already. You need to get a good connection with someone and it’s very difficult, because I would need a years time, but I would love to do one, so who knows.

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